European society is polyethnic and multicultural. This means that the history of Jewish towns and communities, as well as that of the Holocaust, is not only relevant to Jewish history, but an integral part of the history of Europe as a whole, particularly in ESJF’s project countries. We believe that understanding the impact of Jewish communities on the life of towns and regions will help young people form nuanced attitudes to cultural heritage, which, in the long run, will help promote intercultural and interfaith dialogue in a multicultural, diverse Europe.
Through ESJF’s educational outreach programmes, secondary school students are encouraged to preserve and maintain the historical memory of local Jewish communities, including cemetery sites. Focusing on local spaces emphasises not only the close connection between Jewish life and the communities in which students live today, but also serves to de-mystify cemetery sites. This is of particular importance in the areas in which, in the wake of the Holocaust, Jewish communities no longer exist, as these cemeteries may be represent the last physical testament to Jewish presence. It is therefore vital that young people learn about this material heritage and how to place it in its larger historical and socio-cultural context.
ESJF works with local stakeholders and educators to reach young people. It is our aim to reach out to the organisations already active in these regions of Europe, both Jewish and non-Jewish, in order to build on existing networks and expertise, thereby sharing and optimising pedagogical approaches. By working with national and regional Jewish communities at every opportunity, we aim to educate and inspire the next generation to protect and preserve local Jewish heritage.
Currently, we are carrying out educational projects in selected secondary schools in:
Educational activities are strictly regulated by the Greek Ministry of Education and Religious Affairs, and the ESJF developed its educational work in accordance with their requirements.
We partnered with the NGO Centropa, whose work focuses on teaching 20th century Jewish history. In cooperation with the Central Board of Jewish Communities in Greece (KIS), the Jewish Community of Thessaloniki (JCT), and the Konrad Adenauer Foundation (KAS), under the auspices of the Greek Ministry of Education and Religious Affairs, Centropa and ESJF are organising a teacher training seminar in Thessaloniki in December 2019. The event invites 37 educators to discuss and exchange their experiences of teaching 20th century Jewish history.
Secondary school activities will follow. For more details, please check back later.
Educators reached: 37
Students reached: tbc
Time period: from December 2019
Lithuanian Jewish heritage is extensively mapped, and the educational landscape is well-established. The ESJF offers two key contributions here: the specific focus on cemeteries, and an emphasis on reaching students in schools further away from the urban centres.
Teacher training will take place in targeted schools in Lithuania. A professional educator from the Jewish Community in Lithuania (LŽB) will advise and prepare teachers to bring Jewish history to their classes, with a direct focus on local cemetery sites. Students will visit the Jewish Museum in Vilnius and, later, their local cemetery. They will prepare presentations about what they have learnt, which will then be evaluated by the educator.
Locations (intended): Trakai, Želva, Moletai, Bagaslaviskis, Žiežmariai
Educators reached: 10
Locations (intended): Trakai, Želva, Moletai, Bagaslaviskis, Žiežmariai
Students reached (intended): 250
Time period: from December 2019
Moldova has no centralised curriculum that includes Jewish history. As such, educational activities are needed to introduce the subject itself. This means that teacher training is an especially crucial element of the ESJF’s educational work in Moldova: sustainability hinges on convincing teachers to broaden the scope of their work without being required to do so by the curriculum.
Student activities will then be used to build on the teacher training. ESJF constructed its educational programme in close cooperation with the Moldovan Jewish Community. Dr. Irina Shikova, an expert on Jewish heritage in Moldova with years of experience in dealing with cemetery sites, leads pupils from selected schools across the country on educational excursions to Jewish cemeteries.
Locations: Briceva, Falesti (ongoing)
Students reached: 45 (ongoing)
Time period: from October 2019
In Slovakia, education on Jewish history focuses predominantly on the Holocaust, although the actual curriculum content is flexible and determined by the individual preferences of teachers and principals. The ESJF decided to include elements of Jewish history beyond the Shoah, focusing on the Jewish life cycle through the material evidence provided by cemeteries.
When developing outreach programmes for Slovakia, ESJF worked closely with Dr. Ján Hlavinka and Michala Lônčíková, educators from the Holocaust Documentation Center (HDC) in Bratislava, who develop educational activities in partnership with the Federation of Jewish Communities in Slovakia (UZZNO).
During a teacher training seminar for seven teachers from eastern Slovakia, participants made worksheets designed to encourage their students to explore the Jewish material heritage of their own towns. The HDC educators then accompanied the teachers and their classes on field-trips to the Jewish cemetery sites. Students were taught to interpret the gravestones in order to better understand and respect the lives of those buried there.
Educators reached: 7
Locations: Snina, Presov, Bardejov, Hummené, Medzilaborce
Students reached: 190
Time period: September- October 2019
As in Moldova, Ukraine has no standardised curriculum, and education about Jewish history and the Holocaust is often absent from secondary schools. The infrastructure is generally decentralised and underdeveloped. This presents both a challenge and an opportunity: the ESJF’s educational project in Ukraine needed to be built from scratch, but once committed teachers were reached, the results often proved very productive.
The ESJF developed their approach in Ukraine in close cooperation with Alexandra Fishel, an experienced educator and Jewish cemetery expert who visited schools in Kyiv oblast to lecture students on the Jewish history of the region and led excursions to the cemetery sites. Students learnt to decipher Hebrew dates, and to recognise and understand the significance of the most common inscriptions and symbols found on matzevot.
Location: Kyiv (tbc)
Educators reached: tbc
Locations: Bohuslav, Vyshnivets, Stary Vyshnivets, Butyn, Bodakiv
Students reached: 180
Time period: November 2019
The ESJF in higher education – A pilot in Ukraine
As part of the educational pilot project, the ESJF also developed an outreach programme for those in higher education. Jewish studies departments often cater to students in the humanities and the social sciences, but the technology of contemporary heritage preservation is often missing in Jewish-related higher education.
Surveys and photogrammetry are among the core areas of expertise at the ESJF, and we thus worked to develop a training package with which engineering and architecture students can learn about the cutting edge UAV and 3D modelling technology we employ. At the same time, they are given an introduction to Jewish history and heritage. The outreach programme will also target students of history and Jewish studies, encouraging them to broaden their understanding of the technology currently used in the field. Our pilot university outreach programme will take place in two Ukrainian higher education institutions in Kyiv.
Training seminar for engineering students:
Location: Kyiv National University of Civil Engineering and Architecture (KNUBA)
Time period: December 3 – 4
Guest lecture for students of Jewish Studies:
Location: Kyiv Mohyla Academy
Time period: January (tbc)
Please see regular updates on our educational projects below.
On March 4, Artek camp invited ESJF (European Jewish Cemeteries Initiative) head of educational projects Oleksandra Fishel to conduct a class on Ukraine’s Jewish cemeteries for Artek students. 40 teenagers from seven regions of Ukraine (Vinnitsa, Donetsk, Zhytomyr, Odessa, Lviv, Chernihiv and Cherkasy regions) participated in the class.
The European Jewish Cemeteries Initiative (ESJF) visited the Lomonosov lyceeum in Orhei, Moldova today.
Olga Sivak of the Itzik Manger Jewish library gave a guest lecture to the 11th and 12th grades. Students learned about the history of Orhei’s Jewish community (which dates all the way back to the 17th century), its historical events, people, and most importantly, about local Jewish cemeteries, Jewish burial traditions, and how to read the symbols on old gravestones.
ESJF has teamed up with Centropa, an NGO that focuses on Jewish education, to organise a seminar for 35 secondary school educators in Greece. Titled “Teaching 20th century multicultural Greek history through Jewish family stories, promoting interreligious tolerance in the Balkans,” the seminar invited participants to develop approaches to bring Jewish history to the classroom by focusing on Jewish heritage sites – including cemeteries.
Students from four schools in Vyshnivets and the surrounding towns of Stary Vyshnivets, Butyn, and Bodaki were invited in small groups to participate in excursions to both of Vyshnivets’ cemeteries, guided by ESJF educator Dr. Alexandra Fishel.
ESJF’s educational activities have begun in Ukraine, under the pilot project sponsoring the mass surveys from 2018-2020. On November 6th, educator and Jewish cemetery expert Dr. Alexandra Fishel led 50 secondary school students on an excursion to the Jewish cemetery in Bohuslav, Kyiv oblast.
ESJF’s educational projects in Slovakia are wrapping up. The projects, carried out with secondary school students in seven eastern Slovakian schools, have piloted ESJF’s educational activity in the country, serving as the basis for future heritage education. They reached almost 200 students from different schools across the country.
ESJF has begun its educational outreach to schools in Slovakia. On October 7th, 2019, Dr. Jan Hlavinka, head of the Holocaust Documentation Center in Bratislava, led students from two schools in the eastern Slovakian town of Humenné on an excursion to the local Jewish cemetery.